A man who accepted €25 to give a lift to five people who mistakenly thought he was a taxi driver could face a fine of up to €5,000.
Mirza Baig, of 11 Ardfield Grove, Grange in Co Cork, took the money from the group during a Kinsale Rugby Sevens event.
He faces a number of charges including two under a relatively little-known act covering public service vehicles.
Det Garda Kevin Heffernan told Bandon District Court that, on May 5 last, he was on mobile patrol in Kinsale when at 11.35pm he spotted a Honda Civic, the rear of which appeared to be very low to the road.
He stopped the vehicle and found three males seated in the back seat with a fourth male across them, none of whom were wearing seatbelts.
Baig was driving and another person was in the front seat.
“It transpired they did not know the driver,” Det Garda Heffernan said. “They thought the car was a taxi. They had paid him €25 to take them to Ballinhassig from Kinsale.”
The garda said it was a distance of around 15km.
The court heard Baig had told gardaí on the night he was not a taxi driver, and that all five passengers were intoxicated.
None of the passengers provided statements on the night but, subsequently, three did.
Gardaí later confirmed the car was not registered as a public service vehicle (PSV) and that Baig was not a PSV licence holder.
He had produced a provisional driving licence on the night and an insurance cert, but it was later found the document did not cover driving for reward.
The court also heard the €25 had been returned.
Baig faced a number of charges, including two under section 22 of the Taxi Regulation Act relating to not having a licensed PSV and not having a licence to operate a PSV.
Judge Mary Dorgan heard, that under the act, anyone guilty of those offences can face a fine of not less than €4,000 and not more than €5,000.
Insp Pat Meany, prosecuting, said the State was amenable to dropping one of the Section 22 charges.
Baig’s solicitor, Plunkett Taaffe, said his client accepted the facts of the case, and was entering a plea.
He emphasised the situation had not been envisaged under the rules of the act.
He said Baig was 30, a student of business management and was also working 20 hours a week in a Spar.
He said his client had since secured a full driving licence.
“He did not appreciate what he was doing was contrary to all these regulations,” Mr Taaffe said.
“He was not advertising as a taxi driver,” he said, adding there had been no signs or paraphernalia and “there was nothing to indicate [it might have been a taxi] other than the type of car it was”.
As for the passengers, he said: “They were happy to take a spin from anybody.”
Mr Taaffe said it was “virtually impossible” to get a taxi in Kinsale and, regarding his client, added: “He had no concept of what he was landing himself into.”
“These regulations are there to deal with people setting up an enterprise.”
Later, he said it was “a minor matter” and a classic case of legislation being drafted in Dublin with no idea how it applies in the rest of the country.
But Judge Dorgan said Baig was carrying passengers with no insurance and it was a “very serious matter”.
“If there had been an accident there would have been a huge cost arising from that ‘no insurance’ situation,” she said.
She said she would deal with the case in court on July 5.
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